log-fire in snowy conditions

Outdoor Heating: The Ultimate Guide To Choosing An Outdoor Heater

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Last Updated on October 19, 2020 by Maggie

 

Outdoor heating is a cool way to keep warm when the evenings are chilly

 

Heating your outdoor area is a wonderful way to keep your family, and guests warm and comfortable allowing you to spend more evenings outdoors.

Everyone loves to sit around a burning fire, that probably includes you. 

The warmth and dancing flames create an almost hypnotic effect promoting a deep feeling of comfort allowing the mind to relax.

 

people around a bonfire

 

In this guide, you will learn all about outdoor heating.

  • Benefits of outdoor heating
  • Different types of outdoor heaters
  • Pros and cons
  • The fuels most commonly used
  • Safety 

We will also answer some of the most commonly asked questions about outdoor heating but first, let us look at the main question.

Why You Need Outdoor Heating?

Investing in outdoor heating will bring warmth and comfort to your recreational area.

Heating your backyard or patio area extends the outdoor entertaining season by a couple of months and in some areas year-round.

A warm glowing fire brings people together and encourages conversation, great for party nights (beware, they may not want to leave)

 

Benefits of Outdoor Heating

Outdoor heaters can add a touch of class to your outside space and create a nice ambiance making it both functional and improving the aesthetic and overall value to your home.

There are even outdoor heating systems you can cook on, what could be better than everyone joining in and toasting their own marshmallows and s’ mores.

This is something we love doing with friends.

Spending time outside is beneficial for your health too.

So there you have it;

Deciding to purchase an outdoor heater may seem a daunting task with so many choices, styles, colors, and materials to choose from, just where do you begin? 

With us, right here right now,

Using our 30 years of outdoor experience, we will help you decide on the type of outdoor heating that’s going to transform your chilly outdoor space into a welcoming and cozy area by discussing your options.

Before choosing an outdoor heater there are some considerations you need to keep in mind.

#1  Do you need permission from your local authority with regards to, building regulations, rules, or laws set by your local office?

#2  Next, your budget, how much are you prepared to spend on an outdoor heater? this could be the deciding factor between choosing a budget-friendly heater, a permanent outdoor fireplace, or something in between.

#3  If you are considering a permanent feature will you need to hire professionals to carry out any excavation work?

#4  If you are looking to go big will it add value to your home?

#5  How much outside space do you have? 

#6  How often will you use it? Several times a week, or month, or only three to four times a year, (Buy a thicker outdoor jacket instead, more economical)

#7  How many guests do you need to keep warm while entertaining?

#8  What type of fuel is best for your circumstances? Your choices are Wood, Propane, Natural Gas, or Electric.

#9  Think about style, color, and material. Do you need your heater to blend in with your outdoor space and create a statement in your backyard?

 

Placement Of Fire Pit.

Should you decide to use a portable or freestanding fire pit it must be placed on a level area and well away from combustible materials.

Seating around a fire pit needs to be movable or placed a safe distance from the fire.

You should provide at least 10 feet of space around the edges of a fire pit. 

 

 Now let’s talk about the different types of heating so you will be better able to make an informed decision.

 

4 Main Types of Outdoor Heating 

  • Outdoor fireplaces (Permanent features)
  • Fire Pits (Can be permanent or portable)
  • Chimineas (Not really portable but can be moved around the yard)
  • Electric Patio Heaters. (If permanent must be undercover)

 

Let’s Start With Outdoor Fireplaces

outdoor fireplaceThese are mainly free-standing permanent structures that use wood or gas.

Built and designed to complement your backyard in shape, color, and material.

Non-combustible materials used to construct them include stone, brick, concrete, slate, tile, rock, and stucco. 

They range from the simple fireplace kit you build yourself to the most lavish structure with added features like a wine cooler, fridge, and even a sink.

Having a permanent fireplace installed in your backyard is a major decision and financial cost, therefore, needs careful planning.

 

Next Up Fire Pits:

 

Self Build Fire Pits

If you want your fire pit to be a permanent feature, then you need to give it some structure. Using a steel liner will ensure your fire pit lasts for many years.

Fire retardant brick and a fire ring should be used to protect the cement from heat, do not use landscaping bricks unless they have been kiln -fired and can withstand the heat of the flames.

For you DIYers out there that love to build stuff, there are many articles and videos available on How to build a fire pit from the very simple to the more lavish construction.

I have done some research for you and found one that shows you how to build a fire pit in easy to follow instructions. See the video below.

There are also firepit plans and self-build fire pit kits available if you choose to go this route.

 

Backyard fire pits                          

wood burning fire pit with spark guardThere are many different styles of backyard fire pits on the market and like the outdoor fireplaces, they use wood or propane, and some of them are convertible to natural gas.

Many people prefer propane or natural gas as these are classed as smokeless, however, there is still a hardcore of wood burning fire pit enthusiasts.

propane firepit tableFirepit tables are a modification of the fire pit that presents itself as more of a luxury item that can be a really stunning centerpiece for any backyard or patio.

Some fire pit tables have a dual purpose, they include a top that can be placed over the fire pit when not in use, this serves as a useful table for your patio seating area or outdoor space.

 

outland-firebowl-883-mega-portable-propane-fire-pitPortable Propane Fire Pits

 

They are smaller and lighter than the larger backyard fire pits and normally use propane (via a propane tank) as their fuel source. Check out our top picks here. 

 

Chimineas:

 

What Is A Chiminea? 

360-degree-viewing-steel-wood-burning-outdoor-chiminea-with-rain-capA chiminea is another form of outdoor heating that’s perfect for small yards or patios.

The chimney helps direct smoke and sparks away from where you are sitting

by drawing air into the fire and out the neck making it safer and more comfortable than an open fire pit.

 

What Should You Burn In A Chiminea?

The most commonly used fuel is wood although some are now made that can use charcoal (check manufacturers instructions)

You can choose just about any type of firewood you want but using well-seasoned timber will produce a good quality fire.

apple or hickory gives off a nice aroma.

 

What Is The Best Material For A Chiminea?

Chimineas are made of several different materials, Clay, Copper, Cast Iron, stainless steel, and cast aluminum

Clay,

This is the type of material used in original chimineas but doesn’t stand up to inclement weather conditions very well, therefore, it would need some sort of protective cover.

Copper,

If you’re looking for that antiqued appearance for themed garden design, then a copper chiminea could provide that look.

Just be aware that these will not stand up to heavy use and can require a lot of maintenance.

Cast Iron,

These are very robust and will last for many years.

They are extremely heavy and are not intended to be moved around.

It’s a good idea to know exactly where you are going to place the chiminea before you have it installed in your garden or backyard.

Stainless Steel,

These types of chimineas tend to be much cheaper than clay or cast iron.

They can be found in your local hardware store, garden centers, and shopping malls and are generally sold as kits requiring assembly.

Tip: It’s a good idea to check all parts for any defects.

Cast Aluminium

The most popular chimineas for most buyers, although a little more expensive than other types, they are built to last. 

So there you have it. 

If you’re looking for a chiminea that will last a lifetime as part of your backyard design and you’re happy to leave it in one place then the cast iron is for you.

Looking for the most popular chiminea that will fit in with your lifestyle, is easy to maintain, portable, and value for money then go for cast-aluminum.

 

Hiland HLDSO1-WGTHG Pyramid Patio Propane Heater with wheels

 Patio Heaters

Patio heaters are a great way to heat your outdoor space. You have a choice of gas or electric which are available as;

Tabletop models, freestanding, parasol heaters even wall mounted.

 

Electric Outdoor Heaters

Electric heaters are ranked among the most efficient ways to heat your outdoor spaceAirNmore comfort deluxe infrared space heater

Many electric heaters now come with a sensor that turns on when triggered by movement.

They are also free of toxins, so no worries about the environment.

Infrared heaters have been around for the last 50 years

The heat radiating from Infrared heaters are not normally affected by wind, this makes them much more efficient than other traditional patio heaters.

They warm people within its vicinity, not the surrounding air.

The Most Common Types of Fuels

Wood, Propane, Natural gas, Electricity

Wood.

Nothing sets the mood better than a wood-burning fire, flickering flames, and the sound of crackling wood brings about a deep feeling of relaxation and peace.

Pros

  • Real wood fires, being extremely warm and cozy, don’t just look amazing, they bring a real sense of comfort and have that campfire feeling.
  • Everyone sitting around chatting and listening to the sound of cracking wood is the best feeling in the world.  
  • A bonus, you can also cook on them.
  • Wood burns hotter than gas, therefore, giving out more heat
  • Wood is cheaper than propane

Cons

  • Wood releases pollutants and may cause respiratory problems as well as irritate the eyes causing discomfort.
  • The burning of wood requires a chimney to disperse the smoke.
  • Remember chopping and carrying wood can be quite strenuous, so be prepared (think backache).
  • Beware, burning wood can be a safety hazard due to flying sparks and smoke. Using a spark screen is advisable.

Another option worth mentioning that takes care of the above hazard is the addition of wood-burning fire pits that are virtually smokeless.

Due to their innovative design created by Solo Stove for a cleaner, healthier environment.

Made from 304 stainless steel and comes with a lifetime warranty. The downside is they are more expensive than a traditional wood-burning fire pit.

Keep these considerations in mind if you’re thinking of treating yourself to a wood-burning fire.

 

Propane.

Pros

  • Switch it on or off instantly.
  • Cleaner to the environment. (smokeless)

Cons

  • Requires a storage tank that needs regular filling.
  • Can be cumbersome to move around
  • Needs storage space away for other combustible material.

 

Natural Gas.

Pros

  • Much the same as propane as well as convenient and cost-effective,

Cons

  • It needs more maintenance to keep valves clean, (advisable to have them professionally checked annually)
  • Must have a natural gas line connected to your property.

 

Electricity.

Pros

  • Cost-effective: the cost of running an electric patio heater runs somewhere between natural gas and propane.
  • Energy efficiency: electric heaters are said to be around 90% energy efficient.
  • Space-saving: can be mounted on walls or ceilings, perfect if you’re tight on patio space.
  • Electrical units are available in multiple finishes and different sizes to suit your space.

Cons

  • Electrical outdoor patio heaters require an outdoor Powerpoint.
  • Needs to be installed by a qualified Electrician.

 

SAFETY

This should be a major factor when it comes to the placement of an outdoor fireplace. 

Try to reduce the effect of smoke on your backyard and surrounding areas by creating a sheltered spot away from prevailing wind. Place the fire pit a minimum of 10 feet away from any structure, trees, wooden buildings, etc.

Child Safety (kids love fires)

You may need to place a barrier around the fire to keep them safe.

Choose natural gas or propane if you’re concerned about health issues or the environment.

 

FAQ, Outdoor Heating:

1# Can You Cook on a Propane Fire Pit?

Cooking on a propane fire pit is not recommended as the main function is to provide heat.

Although many people roast marshmallows and s’ mores over a propane fire pit it’s definitely not advisable to go with burgers or other bbq treats like hotdogs. 

The fat from these can drip down and block the gas burner which could be an expensive replacement. Check with your user manual as this can void your warranty.

With wood burning fire pits you have the added functionality of being able to cook on them using cooking grates that are available as accessories.

2# Can You Leave Outdoor Heaters Out in The Rain?

 The short answer is NO, however, most outdoor heaters are built to withstand some light rain but frequent exposure will make them deteriorate faster. 

3# Can a Patio Heater be Used on a Wooden Deck?

Yes, providing the necessary safety precautions are in place, like making sure it’s not left unattended.

4# Does a Patio Heater Need to be Covered?

Providing a cover is an excellent way to extend the life of your patio heater and protect it from the elements as well as keeping out dust.

5# Is The Propane Tank Included With an Outdoor Heater?

 No, The propane tank is not included and needs to be purchased separately.

6# How Long Will a 20-Pound Tank Last?

A standard 20-pound cylinder should last from 9 to 15 hours depending on the heat setting you use.

7# How Much Clearance Is Needed For an Outdoor Heater?

The recommended clearance is three feet above the unit and two feet around it. Check the manufacturer’s manual for your particular unit, as these vary according to the type of heater. 

 

Verdict

Wood, Propane, Natural Gas, Electricity.

Electric seems to be the way forward for the best, cleanest, and most efficient way to provide outdoor heating.

Over the years we have used all three types of fuel and in all honesty, our favorite is still the wood-burning firepit.

With its hypnotic dancing flames, sparks, and that unforgettable sound of crackling wood.  I can just hear it now.

 

Your Choice

It all comes down to personal choice, your environment, and the restrictions put on you by local fire laws and community regulations. 

We hope this information has helped you decide that heating your outdoor space will transform your ordinary yard into an awesome cozy backyard that you will enjoy for years to come.

Check out our article on Top 10 Benefits of having a Fire Pit  in your back garden 

A bowl of hot steaming punch  is one great way to protect yourself from the cold, insulating yourself on the inside, and is guaranteed to warm your heart and bones, we highly recommend it 

                                         Our Motto:

                            Life is for Living  – Go live it.